Do stay at home parents have a branding problem?
Should they be rebranded with fancier job title, to help others afford them the respect they deserve?
What exactly is a family office – a strategy of billionaires that anyone can use?
And what else of value does a stay at home parent bring?
I received this awesome video from a new friend, Torree McGowan, an ER doctor and military officer. She gave an awesome talk at the FeminEM Idea exchange 2017 all about managing your director of household operations (click here to visit her site and watch her video).
In the video, she talks all about how her mortgage underwriters just couldn’t accept that her husband was a stay at home dad. They kept demanding his W2’s, sure that there was income hiding somewhere. It only ended once she turned the tables on them.
She asked if they would do this were the situation reversed – her husband a doctor in the military and she was a stay at home parent.
What was the predictable response?
Of course they wouldn’t do that.
I immediately empathized with this. Back in 2013 when I was working on refinancing the mortgage to the 15 year, 2.75% version I would eventually get, the person on the other end of the phone just about panicked when I told them my husband wasn’t working. This was less than a year after my husband had gone into septic shock and almost died.
Luckily, the guy calmed down once I told him my income and account information. It was still surprising to me that the default reaction was to assume that because my husband wasn’t working, we would be in financial trouble. To us, this situation is so normal we don’t usually think about it every day. But to others, it’s highly unusual.
Torree suggests that the stay at home parent be rebranded, perhaps to Director of Household Operations, so as not to confuse the poor mortgage underwriters again.
Not A Gender Issue-Both Stay At Home Moms and Dads
Whether you’re a stay at home mom, or a stay at home dad, society can make you feel like you should be contributing “more”. You don’t contribute income to the household. Maybe you gave up a lucrative job and career to stay at home with your kids.
You can be made to feel as if somehow, raising kids and all that entails just isn’t enough.
Interestingly, Salary.com puts the value of a stay at home mom in 2018 at $162,581. This figure reflects all the different “jobs” a stay at home parent takes on, and although people might quibble with the specifics, the general concept stands. Having a parent at home brings value to the family – non-economic value, sure, but it can also bring an economic one.
Sadly, no word on stay at home dads. Come on, Salary.com, you could add a page for them too.
As a working mom, who has always been a working mom (nearly 15 years now), I have a lot of respect for my stay at home mom brethren. I’ve always thought the Mommy Wars were stupid. Why should women be tearing each other down, when instead we could support each others choices? I believe firmly we should support and respect each other, in whatever we’ve decided is best for ourselves and our families.
And as the wife of a husband who has worked full time, part time, and now stays at home full time, I’m well aware of the huge value of a stay at home parent.
So what kind of job title should at home parents claim? I like Director of Household Operations, but I’d like to give them a promotion. The career track for stay at home parents isn’t as clear as it should be.
Introducing – the rebranded title for stay at home parents. Chief Household Officer.
They not only run the family office, but also all household operations. This enables the income earning household member to not only increase their net worth (by ensuring all things financial are taken care of), but also to focus more on their career by helping the household run smoothly.
The Value of Running The Family Office
Credit for this concept comes from Millionaire Women Next Door – the much less well known cousin to Millionaire Next Door. Sadly, a lot of people I talk to online don’t even know this book exists.
I always appreciate the section of Millionaire Women Next Door that talked about running the family office. If one is a stay at home mom, or dad, they can contribute a tremendous amount of economic value to the household by doing this.
The concept of a “family office” comes from the very wealthy. It’s been around for a long time, with the Rockefeller Family Office being around since 1882. Ultra high net worth investors outsource the management of their money and investments to an advisory firm. You can check out examples of the types of services a family office provides by taking a look at this online brochure from PWC.
Dr. Thomas Stanley borrowed this concept of the family office when talking about women who stayed at home and managed the money.
Now when people think of women managing money, the general stereotype is that the woman does the budgeting and hands the man his allowance. She takes care of the day-to-day spending, but he handles the investments.
Not in the case of someone running the family office, however.
What kind of tasks might someone running the family office do? Here are some I can think of:
- Paying bills
- Doing taxes, or working with the accountant to get them done
- Shopping around for better prices on services and insurance
- Researching purchases extensively so you’ll get the best value for your money
- Investing strategy – how much, in what accounts, and into what funds
- Goal creation and tracking
- Net worth assessment, and monthly/quarterly reports
- Creating an emergency plan
- Debt payoff strategy creation, and debt refinancing
- Creating and maintaining an investment policy statement
- Charitable giving strategy and funding
- Create and implement identity theft protections – both in physical and cyber security
- Research, shop for, and obtain all kinds of insurance (health, life, auto, home, umbrella, etc.)
- Create a will, and potentially a trust
Do you need to be a stay at home parent to do these things? Of course not. You can (and should) do them while working. However, a stay at home parent can contribute enormous economic value to the household, sometimes much more than heading off to a traditional job.
Frankly, we all have limited time and energy. Doing things like shopping around for insurance or researching a new dishwasher is likely low on the list, after working all week. But a parent at home can take on those tasks, and devote more time than someone working full time might be able to do.
By focusing on running the family office, the household spends wisely. It saves and invests for long term goals. It’s protected against disaster.
Running the family office is an invaluable task for the Chief Household Officer.
Adding More Value – The Real Lowdown On Kids Needs
I always find it funny that people assume stay at home parents will return to work when their kids enter preschool, or kindergarten.
Yes, some parents choose to do so, and that’s fine. But the very real needs of children don’t end when they head off to school.
It’s obvious to many why a parent might stay at home when their kids are babies. After all, a baby requires 24 x 7 care. They can’t feed themselves, dress themselves, walk, talk, or most times even sleep properly. As they progress from babies to toddlers, they still require quite a bit of care, and constant supervision. Even after they progress to the point of walking, talking, sleeping, and becoming potty trained (a cause for celebration!), they require constant supervision and lots of help.
Heading off to school doesn’t change those needs. Most “traditional” preschools are part time. As in, very part time. Two or three days per week, for a few hours at a time. Some kindergartens are still part time – mornings or evenings only.
Lets not forget that kids have lots of days off. As in, a seemingly obscene number of days off. There’s a teacher development half day every month. Time off for Thanksgiving, Christmas, February vacation. There’s the long stretch of summertime, where the kids will be home all day.
Oh, and little kids get sick a lot. A LOT. And they have this lovely habit of getting you sick, too.
As the parents of older kids, who are technically of the “can take care of themselves” ages, I can say from experience having a stay at home parent is still valuable. Not only for the still many times where they’re off from school, but also for their activities. Band, drama club, anime club, Boy Scouts, and so on.
Other Activities – Helping The Household Run Smoothly
What else do stay at home parents contribute to household well-being?
I want to talk for a minute about the dreaded errands.
You know the ones. The kind where you need to go to the bank for something, but it’s only open until six and you work an hour away (and have a late meeting). Or when you need to get your car repaired. You get a notice in the mail about your recalled airbag, and so to the shop it goes. Oil changes. Picking up dry cleaning. The list goes on, and on.
There are a number of errands that need to be done, or are easier to be done, during the traditional 9-5 working hours. Having a stay at home partner means someone is at home to take care of those things. The working partner doesn’t have to scramble to get meetings covered, leave early, or take a day off. They also don’t need to spend time after work doing these things. Instead they can spend time with the kids, do fun things together as a family, and have time for some hobbies.
Doing errands doesn’t sound glamorous and exciting, and I know it’s sometimes not given the value it deserves. But having had many years where I needed to run all these errands on top of a full workday, I think it’s incredibly valuable.
Congratulations, Chief Household Officer
You’re a valued member of the executive team of “<Insert Family Name> Corp.”
And next time you fill out a mortgage application, feel free to call yourself either the Chief Household Officer or the Director of Household Operations, whichever you prefer.
Do you have other suggestions for rebranding of stay at home parents? Questions on the “family office”? Or other things stay at home parents do that you want to give a shout out to? Let me know in the comments!
And don’t forget to share this with any stay at home dads – or moms – you might know.
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